Most women find that as they get older, it becomes harder to manage their weight because their metabolism has slowed. Diets that worked in the past become less and less effective. Contrary to most weight loss advice (which seems to treat everyone the same), my take is that women over 40 need to approach weight loss differently. So if you're over 40 and want to shed a few pounds, here are 8 things you should know:
1. Exercise isn't enough.
Exercise is a must for your health and wellbeing. But women over 40 can't rely on it alone for weight loss. If you're working out regularly and still not losing weight, it's because you have to pay more attention to what you're eating.
2. You can't lose weight as quickly as you did when you were 25.
I've seen it many times. If you're 55 years old and trying to lose weight, and expect it to happen at the same rate as when you were 25, you're asking for trouble. Unrealistic expectations mean that even when you're making good progress, you'll feel frustrated at the pace of your progress. This can often lead to second-guessing your approach and then finally giving up (which is what most people do).
3. You can't turn to quick fixes …. and that's a good thing!
This is the number one reason why women over 40 have an advantage with losing weight. (Yes, that's right, an advantage!) You might think that it's a bad thing that you can no longer drop 10 pounds in a week. But what this means is that you have to focus on making long-term changes, which is the cornerstone of successful weight loss.
Not only can you not rely on quick fixes, but you really can't rely on dieting anymore, either. I'll see clients who say things like "I never want to go on another diet again!" This makes them much more focused on long-term change rather than a quick fix. Again, that's a good thing!
4. Failure doesn't make you a failure.
In most areas of life, one failure is enough to put people off trying again. Not with weight loss. Most women in their 40s have a long list of diet failures behind them. I am always impressed with women who—despite 20 or 30 years of not being able to lose weight—are still willing to give it another go. It's testament to how important they feel managing their weight is.
The problem arises when you start thinking that since it hasn't happened so far, it's never going to happen. But the fact is, most people who have eventually succeeded at losing weight have a past history of diet failures. It's certainly not a barrier to getting what you want.
5. The best way to lose weight is to change your eating habits.
For most people, even if they are given the best food plan in the world, they struggle to stick to it. Why? Because our eating habits are ingrained, and simply being told what to eat is not enough to reverse years of conditioning.
So you shouldn't be hard on yourself for not being able to stick to a plan. Instead, you need to get a better understanding of what your eating habits are (by keeping a food diary) and how you can change them.
6. Make small changes
How do you make it more likely that you will stick with something for the long-term? Don't completely overhaul your current diet. Just make small adjustments. For example:
- Take control of your food environment, by removing unnecessarily tempting food from your line of sight (on your desk at work or the kitchen benchtop.)
- Focus on being more mindful when you're eating, so you eat slower, really enjoy your food, and connect with what your body wants.
- Share food with others (especially snacks and desserts) to minimize calories while still enjoying foods you love.
There are plenty of different areas of your eating you can change. The idea is to "nudge" your behavior in the right direction. But remember: the best changes are small ones that you barely notice
7. The sooner you act, the better.
While it's possible to lose weight successfully at any age, there's no denying that you'll have a smoother ride the sooner you start. So start now!
8. Your best friend is persistence.
You can succeed at losing weight, but it means that you'll have to be persistent. Things won't always go your way. There will be weight plateaus and reversals. But that's OK. Just keep focused on your goal, keep making small changes and keep going. This is the key to your success.
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